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Skeeters! How to keep mosquitoes out of your potted plants

The ’Hood is overrun with mosquitoes after the recent rains. Despite harangues from the County Health Department about cleaning up standing water in the backyard, it seems like we’re enjoying a LOT more skeeters than usual. The City’s clever alley-paving project contributes handsomely to the problem: wherever the workers left low spots, rainwater collects into long-lasting puddles…and in Arizona mosquito eggs can hatch and the babes fly off to chew on their victims in just two or three days. Nor is the situation helped by the guy who lives catty-corner across the alley: not the type to run around dumping water out of standing containers and old tires. Inside the house, though, a less obvious hatchery lurks: the drip dishes under your potted plants.

When you water the plant, of course, excess moisture drains into the dish…and conveniently not onto your floor or tabletop. If the bottom of the pot pretty well covers the bottom of the dish, you may not notice that water can collect there for quite some time — plenty of time for the little ladies to spawn a few dozen flying, biting babes. The other day a friend remarked that there seemed to be more skeeters in the family room than anywhere else in the Funny Farm. Hmmm…we have four potted plants in here, two of them too heavy for me to budge.

With her helping out, the two of us lifted the larger ones out of their pottery nests and LO! there were icky, stagnant puddles beneath both of them. Even though I’d salted the plants’ soil with crumbled-up Bacillus thuringiensis dunk, it seems not to have done the trick.

So: here’s the not-so-very-damned-uselessly-PC trick:

First, clean out the drip dishes. Wash well, removing any mold and algae growing in there. Dry them well.

Next: sprinkle in a layer of coarse gravel. I happen to have a whole front yard full of this stuff, thanks to the xeric landscaping. But you can buy some, if need be, at an aquarium supply store, a big box store, or the ever-present Amazon. (Wouldn’cha know? Amazon has 35 pages of the stuff!) Pat the gravel down to make it level.

Now: you want to saturate these stones with non-organic, non-environmentally friendly dish detergent. Dawn is a sure bet. Dawn detergent kills bugs on contact. Dilute it well with water in a spray bottle, and squirt the diluted detergent onto the gravel layer. This  strategy makes the stuff easy to apply to the gravel and unlikely to harm most houseplants.

And finally: set the plants back in the clean dishes, on top of the layer of soapy gravel.

Et voilà! This accomplishes two purposes with…heh…one stone. First, the Dawn in there will kill any baby mosquitoes that get deposited in the drip water. And second, by lifting the pot up a fraction of an inch, the gravel allows more air to circulate so that drip water evaporates faster and is less given to lingering long enough for mosquito eggs to hatch.